Waist Circumference And Heart Health Issues

Waist Circumference And Heart Health Issues

Ask most people why they exercise and/or diet and inevitably they’ll tell you they want to lose weight. Wrapped up in this answer is also the desire to change their body shape, get fit and improve their health. However, despite this, there is a real obsession with how many kilos they weigh.

Obviously, your body has mass, that’s why when you step on the scale the needle moves but more important than your actual weight is what that weight is made up of and where it is located.

For example, you can lose weight by simply skipping a few meals so that your digestive tract and stomach are empty or simply sweating or urinating. A litre of water weighs one kilo so if you pee out 500 ml you’ll instantly be half a kilo lighter. Have you lost anything meaningful? No! Will this lost weight be quickly regained when you eat or drink next? Yes!

So, focusing on your weight is a mistake but how else can you track your progress and results and also establish whether you are about the right weight for your build? Good questions!

In fitness, we often use tools like bioelectrical impedance machines, skinfold callipers and DEXA machines to measure how much of your weight is made up from fat compared to muscle, bone, skin and organs. This results in something called your body fat percentage. Body fat percentage tests vary in accuracy by method and the person conducting the tests with DEXA being the most reliable and accurate but, for reasons of simplicity and ease, the medical profession relies on two other tests; the body mass index and the waist to hip ratio.

Body mass index compares your height to your weight and uses the following calculation…

BMI = Weight (kg)/Height (m)2

If that looks kind of complicated, don’t worry, there are lots of online calculators and apps you can use instead such as this one: http://www.healthdirect.gov.au/bmi-calculator

Once you have your BMI result, simply compare it to the following chart…

≤ 18.5 Underweight

18.5–24.9 Healthy weight range

25.0–29.9 Overweight

30.0–34.9 Obesity I

35.0–39.9 Obesity II

≥ 40.0 Obesity III

Unfortunately, as quick and easy as BMI is, there are several factors that can result in inaccurate readings. For example, if you are an avid exerciser and you carry significantly more muscle than the average person, you will score a higher BMI simply because you are “penalized” for being heavy even though you may be very lean – muscle is more dense than fat. It is not uncommon for bodybuilders and strength athletes to be categorised as obese when clearly they are not.

A simpler and yet more useful measure is waist to hip ratio. Waist to hip simply compares your waist measurement to your hip (butt) measurement and while it doesn’t take your weight into consideration, it is a useful tool for identifying your risk of heart disease, heart attack and developing metabolic syndrome as takes into account the location of your major fat stores.

We all have fat – some of us have a lot and some of us have a little. However, it’s not just the quantity but the location that is important. Fat around your thighs, arms, hips and legs is not especially healthy or attractive but does not significantly increase your risk of suffering heart disease. In contrast, fat stored around your abdomen is sometimes even called heart attack fat and is very unhealthy. Your waist to hip ratio reveals whether you are carrying too much fat around your waist and if your waist measurement is too big to be considered healthy.

To calculate your waist to hip ratio, measure your waist and then your hips – use the widest parts. Next, divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement to produce a ratio.

For example, if your waist measurement is 100 cm and your hip measurement is 112 cm, your waist to hip ratio would be 0.89. Once you have your ratio, compare it to the chart below…

Male Female Health Risk
0.95 or below 0.80 or below Low Risk
0.96 to 1.0 0.81 to 0.85 Moderate Risk
1.0+ 0.85+ High Risk

Again, if maths isn’t your strong suit, use an online calculator like this one: http://www.bupa.com.au/health-and-wellness/tools-and-apps/tools-and-calculators/waist-to-hip-ratio

Your waist measurement alone is also an excellent indicator of your risk for developing heart disease and as most of us already know our waist measurement from the clothes we buy, this is a very easy way to identify your risk for heart disease. They say size matters and in the case of your waist, smaller is better!

Like BMI, there are a few factors that can reduce the validity of this test – some medical conditions cause abdominal distension which will create a bigger waistline that is not actually caused by fat and pregnancy is another thing that invalidates this test. However, both waist to hip ratio and waist measurement alone are very reliable indicators of your risk of suffering heart disease.

For women:
Risk is increased at ≥ 80 cm
Risk is high at ≥ 88 cm

For men:
Risk is increased at ≥ 94 cm
Risk is high at ≥ 102 cm for men

http://heartfoundation.org.au/your-heart/know-your-risks/healthy-weight/waist-measurement

Now, before you start banging out crunches in an effort to lose centimetres from around your waist, remember that no amount of abs exercises will magically trim fat from your stomach. Losing fat from your abdomen and waist requires a holistic approach including diet, exercise and mindset.

Many people suffer “middle age spread” as they hit their late 40s and 50s and big bellies are becoming more and more common in younger people too. Unfortunately, there is an unbreakable link between abdominal fat and risk of suffering from heart disease, heart attacks and a host of other medical conditions. If you care about your long term health and maximizing your lifespan, make sure you stay on top of your waist measurement and don’t just buy clothes with a larger waist.

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AUTHOR

Hi, my name is Dinny Morris. I’m a personal trainer and in sunny Sydney, Australia.

I work with men and women at all levels of their physical development, from overweight couch potatoes who want to get in shape, to professional athletes and natural bodybuilders who want to beef up strength and body mass.

* Testimonials found on Dinny Morris Fitness have been sent to me by past and present customers and may not reflect the typical customer’s experience and are not intended to represent or guarantee that anyone will achieve the same or similar results. The testimonials are meant to be a showcase of the best results personal training with me can produce, and should not be taken as the results a typical user will get.